South America Road Trip in Argentina and Chile

Lake District Loop

Road Trip in Chile and Argentina

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The Ultimate South America Road Trip?

16-day Road Trip in Argentina and Chile for £2350pp

This just might be our favourite of all our South America road trips: it's off the beaten track enough that you'll get away from most other tourists, but the roads are good and we've picked out some lovely accommodation along the way.

Best of all, you'll be able to enjoy some of Argentina and Chile's best scenery on a perfect loop around the Lake Districts of the two countries. This is a land of huge glacial lakes and steep valleys, covered with verdant forest. It feels positively Scandinavian, but on an epic scale, and makes Windermere look a bit... weedy!

You'll fly in and out of Santiago, but your road trip really starts and ends in Puerto Montt, in the heart of the Chilean Lake District. From here you'll head south along the famous Carretera Austral, before crossing the border into Argentina's Welsh Patagonia and then heading up to the chocolate-box charm of Bariloche. From here you can explore the Argentine Lake District before crossing back over into Chile by the Pucon and Osorno volcanoes and dropping the car off back in Puerto Montt.

Outline Itinerary

  • Day One: Arrival in Santiago de Chile
  • Day Two: Travel to Puerto Montt
  • Day Three: Drive to Hornopiren
  • Day Four: On to Caleta Gonzalo
  • Day Five: Free Day in the Pumalin National Park
  • Day Six: On to Puerto Cardenas
  • Day Seven: Up into the Andes
  • Day Eight: Into Welsh Patagonia
  • Day Nine: Free Day in the Los Alerces National Park
  • Day Ten: Drive to El Bolson
  • Day Eleven: On to Bariloche
  • Day Twelve: Free Day in Bariloche
  • Day Thirteen: Drive to San Martin de los Andes
  • Day Fourteen: Back Over the Border to Chile
  • Day Fifteen: Drive to Osorno
  • Day Sixteen: Overnight flight back to the UK

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Detailed Itinerary

Day One – Start of your Holiday in Chile

Your holiday will begin this morning as you touch down in Santiago, and we will be there to meet you and take you straight to your hotel in the upmarket Providencia area of the city. You will then have the rest of the day free to relax and enjoy one of South America’s most sophisticated capital cities.

  • Most international flights arrive early in the morning, so if you’re not too jetlagged you could take a tour of the city this afternoon, just ask us for more information.

Day Two – Fly to Puerto Montt

We will pick you up this morning and take you to the airport for your flight south to Puerto Montt, in the heart of the Chilean Lake District. Your South America road trip will begin in earnest here as you pick up your vehicle at the airport and drive the short distance to your hotel in the pretty lakeside town of Puerto Varas. (B)

  • Our standard price is based on a Hertz G tariff (Nissan X-Trail or similar) but if you'd like more room or power, just ask us about the full range of vehicles available.

Day Three - Drive to Hornopiren

Today you will be heading south along the famous Carretera Austral. As you follow this road along the coast, you’ll pass the villages of Chamiza and Metri before you reach the ferry point at Caleta La Arena, from where you will sail across the Reloncavi fjord over to Caleta Puelche. Following the coast again, you will then head south to Hornopiren, where you will stay tonight. (B)

Day Four - The Fjords of Chile

This morning you will drive down to the harbour to catch the ferry south along the Leptepu Fjord to the the town of Leptepu itself. During this fantastic 3-hour boat journey you will have some stunning views of the fjord and the surrounding mountains. On arrival in Leptepu you will have a short drive across the Huequi Peninsula, with great views up to the 1435m Pico Bulli, before catching the short ferry across the Reñihue Fjord to Caleta Gonzalo, which is the gateway for visits to the beautiful Pumalin National Park. (B)

Day Five - Pumalin National Park

You will have the whole of today free to visit the Pumalin National Park. This epic landscape of temperate rainforest, snow-clad peaks and beautiful coastline offers some excellent walking possibilities and guarantees some superb photos. (B)

Day Six - Puerto Cardenas

You will leave the National Park behind today as you continue your journey south towards Chaitén, which was abandoned in 2008 after a volcano eruption caused flooding and landslides to bury most of the town. You won’t be hanging around though as you continue on to Lake Yelcho and your destination for the night on the northern shore. The drive will be short today so you may wish to spend some time on the lake this afternoon, as it is a great spot for trout fishing if that’s your thing! Alternatively you could just relax by the wood-burning stove in your cosy lodge for the evening. (B)

Day Seven - Futaleufu

Today your South America road trip will see you climb up into the Andes as you head towards the border with Argentina. After enjoying some fabulous views today, you’ll be spending tonight in the little Chilean town of Futaleufú on the banks of the river of the same name. This river is world famous for white water rafting, so if you’re brave enough you could join a tour and explore the area from the water. (B)

Day Eight - Cross into Argentina

You will leave Chile behind for now as you cross the border into Argentina and head down the eastern slopes of the Andes to Esquel. This laid-back town is the hub for Los Alerces National Park, a magnificent and untouched expanse of emerald lakes and ancient forests. The park is full of alerces trees, many of which are over 2000 years old, and this is how it got its name. Most of the park is only accessible by foot making it the perfect place for hiking. There are plenty of trails to follow and treks can be done with or without a guide. (B)

Day Nine - Los Alerces National Park

Today you can leave the car behind and head into the park on foot. One of the best trails leads you across a suspension bridge to the Green Lake, where you can take a boat trip to see some native wildlife. Alternatively, you can drive to the small town of Trevelin and dip into the area’s Welsh history – both Esquel and Trevelin are originally villages established during the Welsh colonisation of Patagonia in the 19th century and still maintain their traditions and heritage today, so if you fancy a nice cup of tea and some Welshcakes, Trevelin is definitely worth a visit! (B)

Day Ten - El Bolson

You are back in the car today as you begin to journey north along the RN40. Today is a short drive to the quirky town of El Bolson where you’ll be spending the night. A huge influx of hippies in the 1960s made this quiet and conservative town into what it is today, with its arts and crafts market, organic restaurants and homemade beers! (B)

Day Eleven - Drive to Bariloche

Your road trip in Argentina continues today as you head further north to the lovely lakeside town of San Carlos de Bariloche. In the first half of the last century, Bariloche had a large number of German immigrants and you could be forgiven that you’d landed in a small town in the Black Forest for all the wooden chalets and chocolate shops you find here – there’s even a resident St. Bernard in the main square! The town offers some excellent walking possibilities and is always a favourite stop on road trips in South America. (B)

Day Twelve - Free Day in Bariloche

We have left today free for you to relax and enjoy exploring Bariloche. There are a range of gentle walks available from the town itself, whether along the lakeshore or into the hills around the town, or you can just enjoy the cute shopping streets and quiet plazas. (B)

  • If you would like to see more of the area we can arrange a catamaran boat trip across the lake to the beautiful Isla Victoria and Los Arrayanes National Park, a great way to explore this part of Argentina!

Day Thirteen - San Martin de los Andes

Today's drive is definitely a special one... The scenery here really can’t be beaten and you'll see why as you wind through the slopes of the Andes past glistening rivers and lakes. There are plenty of photo opportunities along the way so take your time and pack a picnic! This evening you will arrive in the popular ski resort of San Martín where there are lots of artisan shops and authentic restaurants to enjoy. (B)

Day Fourteen - Back into Chile

This morning you will continue north towards the ice-clad Lanin Volcano which marks the border between Argentina and Chile. You will cross the border today as you head back into Chile and to the lakeside town of Pucón, on the shores of Lake Villarrica, your base for the night. Surrounded by volcanoes (including the Villarrica, one of the most active volcanoes in the world!) and situated on the edge of a huge lake, this place is a mecca for adrenaline junkies. Water skiing, horse riding and caving are popular activities, but if you would rather chill out with a fishing trip or spend the day relaxing in hot spring we don’t blame you! (B)

Day Fifteen - Pucon and Osorno

You can spend the morning in Pucon if you wish, before heading south to the town of Osorno, a major transport hub linking the region with the capital. There’s plenty to see this evening as you walk around the city, soaking up the Chilean lifestyle, as Osorno often escapes the hordes of tourists who flock to the Lakes District in the summer months. (B)

Day Sixteen - Last Day of your South America Road Trip

Sadly, your road trip in South America will come to an end today. This morning you will take the short drive back to Puerto Montt where you will drop off your car at the airport and hop on your flight back to Santiago in plenty of time for your international flight home. (B)

Options to extend this South America road trip

Wine tasting holiday in Chile

Wine Tasting in Maipo Valley - from £95pp

Chileans are justifiably proud of their wines, and any road trip holiday in Chile is enhanced by a trip out to some of the country's vineyards for a tasting session. We'd suggest a day trip into the fabulous Maipo valley, where you can visit a couple of Chile's best vineyards to sample their wares, as well as enjoying the beautiful countryside.

Chile's Atacama Desert

Atacama Desert - 4 days from £995pp

The Atacama desert is the driest place on earth, and also one of the strangest. This four-day extension to your Carretera Austral road trip will take you out deep into the Atacama desert to experience the other-worldly landscape of giant red volcanoes, coloured mineral lakes, and wildlife including chinchillas and pink flamingoes!

La Campana National Park

La Campana National Park - from £170pp

If you'd like to extend your Chile road trip to explore some of the country's most lovely natural scenery, easily accessible in a day trip from Santiago, why not take a trip into the gorgeous La Campana National Park? Ideal for walking and trekking, with paths that are accessible all year round, you can enjoy seeing waterfalls and palm trees, wildcats, skunks, eagles and chinchillas before driving back to Santiago in the evening.

Easter Island tour

Easter Island Tour - 4 days from £1250pp

The enigmatic Moai statues make Easter Island one of the most mysterious holiday destinations in the world, but happily its mysteries are within relatively easy reach of Santiago so adding on a tour of Easter Island to this Chile holiday is fairly straightforward. This four-day package will allow you plenty of time to relax and enjoy all the highlights of Easter Island.

Valparaiso and Viña del Mar tour

Valparaiso & Viña del Mar Tour - from £140pp

The port city of Valparaiso was once one of the most famous in South America, and before the opening of the Panama Canal it was a regular stop for all shipping as they circumnavigated South America. Today you can see its superb historic architecture and the brightly-painted hillside houses, reached by Victorian funicular railways. From Valparaiso we'll travel on to the beachside town of Viña del Mar to enjoy its lovely promenade and parks.

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What's Included?

Our standard price for this road trip in South America is £2350 per person, which is based on two sharing a double or twin room in our standard hotels.

That price includes all your accommodation, rental car with unlimited free mileage and local taxes (excluding the local airport pickup tax which unfortunately we are unable to pre-pay), self drive information pack, all transfers in Santiago, and breakfast every day.

We don't have any "local payments" or sneaky charges: everything you have read about on this itinerary is included in that price. And because everything we do is tailor-made, we don't have fixed departure dates or minimum numbers for our trips. Outside of national holidays or other special events, this price is valid for the whole of 2020.

International flights

So with the exception of a few meals, everything on your holiday is included. What we don't include as standard is your international flights, because with these you have a huge range of options depending on the date you want to travel, the route you want to fly, and your preferred departure airport in the UK.

We aren't tied to any particular airline, and we will be delighted to discuss all options with you, or you can even book the flights yourself if you prefer: it's totally up to you.

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